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Madrid to extend virus restrictions to more areas

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Madrid (AFP)

Madrid, the epicentre of an explosion of new infections in Spain, will on Friday extend partial lockdown measures to more areas to try to stem the surge in new coronavirus infections, officials said Wednesday.

The regional government on Monday introduced mobility controls on some 850,000 people in the Madrid region -- mostly in densely populated, low-income districts in the south. These neighbourhoods account for 13 percent of the region's population of 6.6 million -- but 24 percent of virus infections.

The restrictions prevent people from entering or leaving the affected areas, except for work, education or to seek medical care, but they can move around freely within their zone.

At a news conference, deputy health chief Antonio Zapatero confirmed that the restrictions would be extended to more areas, and said that the regional government would announce on Friday which zones will be affected.

The regional government was still "studying and analysing" the epidemiological data before it makes its decision, he added.

Spain's Health Minister Salvador Illa on Tuesday called on Madrid residents to "limit to the maximum their movements" and restrict social contacts to the "essential" to reverse a surge in Covid-19 infections.

The Madrid region has recorded 202,600 confirmed cases of the disease and 9,129 deaths -- in both cases a third of the national total.

The areas affected by the new mobility restrictions introduced on Monday have all counted more than 1,000 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants -- nearly three times the national average, which in itself is the highest in the European Union.

The parks there have been closed and cafes and restaurants must shut by 10:00 pm.

Since the central government ended its state of emergency on June 21, lifting all national lockdown restrictions, responsibility for public healthcare and managing the pandemic has been left in the hands of Spain's 17 autonomous regions.

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